The New York Times will begin charging $15 to view its news online.

Beginning March 28, visitors to will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying.

The move is designed draw in subscription revenue from its most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up the vast majority of the site’s traffic.

Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages – $15 for a month of access to the web site and a mobile phone app; $20 for Web access and an iPad app; and $35 for an all-access plan.

All subscribers who receive the paper through home delivery will have free and unlimited access across all Times digital platforms except – for now – e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

“A few years ago it was almost an article of faith that people would not pay for the content they accessed via the Web,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said.

“This move is an investment in our future. It will allow us to develop new sources of revenue to support the continuation of our journalistic mission and digital innovation, while maintaining our large and growing audience to support our robust advertising business. And this system is our latest, and best, demonstration of where we believe the future of valued content — be it news, music, games or more — is going.”

Sulzberger acknowledged the hurdles The Times must overcome.

“The challenge now is to put a price on our work without walling ourselves off from the global network, to make sure we continue to engage with the widest possible audience.”

Not all visits to will count toward the 20-article limit.

In an effort to ensure that as many as possible of the Web site’s more than 30 million monthly readers are not deterred from visiting, The Times will allow access to people who visit through search engines like Google and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. There will, however, be a five-article limit a day for people who visit the site from Google.

The 20-article limit will immediately apply to readers accessing from Canada. That is to allow the company time to work out any software issues before the system goes live in the United States.

While online advertising has grown, it has not increased quickly enough to make up for the decline in traditional print advertising. So many publications have been looking at ways to make online consumers pay as they do for print.

The debate consuming the newspaper business now centres on the question that The Times hopes to answer: Can you reverse 15 years of consumer behaviour and build a business around online subscriptions? Many believe the answer is no.

Ony New York Times will tell.